Tŷ Hafan provides vital care and support for almost 300 children with life-shortening conditions and their families at its hospice in Sully, near Cardiff, and in the children’s homes and communities across West, Mid and South Wales.
It currently costs £5.2 million a year to provide this care and support, with more than 80 per cent of all costs funded by the generosity of the public and less than 20 per cent coming from statutory sources including Welsh Government, local authorities and health boards.
But spiralling energy bills combined with falling donations, and, increasing demand for its services from families who are themselves under huge additional pressure from the cost of living crisis, is leaving the 23-year-old charity facing a challenge it is describing as ‘even greater than that posed by the coronavirus pandemic’.
Maria Timon Samra, Chief Executive of Tŷ Hafan, said: “Huge rises in the cost of energy combined with a significant drop in income, plus increasing demand for our services from already under-pressure families, is, in effect, a perfect storm and is proving to be hugely challenging for us.
“Now, more than ever, we need those organisations and individuals who are able to do so to support us wherever possible, to enable us to carry on caring for some of the most vulnerable children in Wales and their families through very difficult times and beyond.”
Tŷ Hafan’s annual energy bill for its 10-bed hospice and 19 charity shops around South, Mid and West Wales is currently £100,000 per annum. This contract ends this month (September 2022).
The charity has been quoted a minimum of £460,000 per annum for a new three-year energy contract or £600,000 for a new one-year deal.
Maria Timon Samra continued: “The best quote we have had will see our annual energy bill alone more than quadrupling, and unlike many other businesses and organisations, we are not in a position to even consider passing on those additional costs to the families who use our services because all the care and support we provide is free of charge.
“Like every other business right now, we are, of course, looking at a range of ways in which we may be able to mitigate against these rising fuel bills, and we hope that government will ensure that charities such as ourselves will be included in any plans to support businesses.
“We have already installed solar panels on the roof of our hospice and these are currently showing a saving of 13% on hospice electricity costs. We are now looking to secure funding to be able to install solar panels on our head office too, which potentially, could see additional savings of around 25%.”
“We will, however, not be cutting the services we provide because children with life-shortening conditions and their families need us now more than ever.
“Compounding the rise in our energy costs and rising costs, our income is dropping. The pandemic caused a drop in our annual income of around 25% and we were starting to see some recovery from that but the cost of living crisis is now making fundraising more challenging than ever.
“In the first four months of 2022, donations to Tŷ Hafan from individuals have dropped by almost half compared with the same period last year.
“This situation is very concerning because many people who have been loyal supporters for years are cancelling their direct debits.
“We know they don’t want to do this, because they are telling us so, but they’re having to make this choice because they simply cannot afford to give to us right now because their own energy costs are so high, plus the rise in the cost of living generally.”
“We understand that these are very challenging times for us all,” added Maria Timon Samra, “and especially so for the children and families for whom we are a lifeline. In fact, I think that the challenges we are facing now are even greater than those posed by the coronavirus pandemic.
“All donations to help Tŷ Hafan children’s hospice to get through these most challenging of times will make an immense difference.”
The charity is also calling upon the Welsh Government, UK Government and energy suppliers to provide immediate assistance to the families of children with life-shortening conditions who they support, and who are also facing huge rises to their gas and electricity bills.
Tracy Jones, Director of Family Wellbeing and Outreach at Tŷ Hafan children’s hospice, said: “Families of children with life-shortening conditions are among some of the most vulnerable in Wales. Energy bills for these families are often higher due to the need for life-saving equipment such as oxygen concentrators and ventilators, feeding pumps and suction units in the home.
“In 2019, the charity Scope estimated that families with a disabled child faced, on average, extra costs of £581 a month. The impact of energy price rises and the overall rise in the cost of living will have increased that figure dramatically.
“We would therefore urge the Welsh Government, UK Government and energy suppliers to recognise and prioritise their specific needs as a matter of urgency and to proactively do whatever they can in order to protect these children and their families from the devastating impact of the cost of living crisis.”